4Nature is a Finnish company that makes modular homes that are easy to construct, giving people in disaster zones long term shelter, getting them out of tents or other short term shelters. A 55-square meter house can be built by three people in 48 hours using simple tools without electricity. I met Mikael Arpiainen, the CEO of 4Nature, several months back and he explained to me the concept and the good work they were doing for the people of Haiti and refugee camps in Africa. Shortly after the earthquake in Japan, I reached him via email and he sent on some more information about his company which I summarize below.
The idea is to start with a basic “module” of 18-square meters which can be combined with other modules to make any structure you need. Pieces can be added on or removed easily and because the modules are built ahead of time in quantities, they are cheap and easy to ship and handle. It’s like Lego. Once a shelter is no longer needed, they can be disassembled and re-used again and again, cutting down on waste and saving on the initial investment.
The structures are designed to be built quickly, without the need of a foundation. They can be built on corkscrew like pillars so the height of the home can be adjusted as necessary. The philosophy behind these homes is that they can be built by anyone so that people begin to rebuild their lives and help each other while helping themselves and not have to wait for specialized crews. The point is to get people back on their feet and out of temporary shelters and into homes that they can call their own so they can begin to re-build their lives.
These homes are not trailer homes like the ones that were provided for the Kobe earthquake victims. These are simple but durable structures that can support long term occupancy. They are built to withstand hurricane force winds, are flame retardant, and are built to be comfortable in all seasons.
Other points from the 4Nature web site below:
- Most affordable long-term residency solution available on the market
- Easy to assemble – a standard house can be erected without any machinery
- Extremely short building time – significant savings in building costs
- Inhabitants can move in the same day – optimal for crisis situations
- Reusable – Can be assembled and disassembled several times
- Adaptable to any need – private house, hospital, school, office, warehouse..
- Fireproof, water-resistant, resistant to insects and termites
- Withstands winds of up to 100 mph, up to 8.9 Richter earthquakes
- Built out of environmentally friendly materials
- Easy installation of solar panels and other amenities
4Nature says they have over 50 units at the factory ready to go today and can begin ramping up production if large orders are necessary. Pricing from the factory starts at 2,500 euros for their basic 18 square meter home. If anyone reading this is interested in contacting 4Nature, please visit their website or leave a comment below and I will pass on your contact details.
As the search and rescue operations wind down, it’s vital to get the survivors out of the tents, cars, and gymnasiums where they have been living and into places where they have privacy so they can get their life together again. These homes by 4Nature are one way to do it.
UPDATE: According to this article (in Japanese) there are still only 36 units of temporary housing have been built in the three weeks since the earthquake.